The documentary Stink! that was shown last week got us thinking about how we can eliminate chemicals in our homes. 

Today, we live in a technological synthetic society. We are surrounded by chemicals everywhere, many of which are not good for the health of humans, animals or the environment.

The folks at Naturepedic Organic Mattress Gallery here in town shared some of the following information about toxins in our homes.

The home can be particularly harmful as far as chemical exposure is concerned. Our homes are sealed environments which amplifies exposures to any chemicals present. We spend so much time living, eating, and sleeping in our homes. Controlling what we bring into our homes is the best way to make our home a safer healthier environment.

The home contains all kinds of chemical substances that are mixed into consumer products during the manufacturing process. Examples of these chemicals are:

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

    • VOCs are found in furniture, couches, mattresses, plastics, building materials, carpeting, cosmetics, shampoos, paints, and more

      • VOC exposure has been associated with cancer, birth defects, respiratory irritation, headaches and more

  • Flame Retardant Chemicals (FRs)

    • FRs are found in almost all consumer products including clothing, furniture, mattresses, plastics, memory foams, toys and more

      • FR exposure has been associated with cancer, reproductive & development damage, thyroid disfunction and more

  • Per-fluorinated Chemicals (PFCs)

    • PFCs are waterproofing and stain-resistance agents. They are found in many consumer products including mattresses, carpeting, clothing, furniture fabrics and more

      • PFC exposure has been associated with reduced immune system function, multiple organ damage, developmental problems and more

  • Phthalates

    • Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics, such as found in vinyl mattress covers, and as fragrances in cosmetics and cleaning products

      • Phthalate exposure has been associated with reduced fertility, increased risk of breast cancer, allergies, asthma and more

  • Lead

    • Lead is a toxic heavy metal and found in a few cosmetics, paints, and textile products and more

      • Lead exposure is associated with reproductive and developmental harm; muscle disorders; organ problems

When purchasing consumer product to bring into your home, make sure that you are not bringing in toxic chemicals. To do this you need to educate yourself and make healthier choices as to which products and which brands you purchase. Every product group mentioned has a corresponding alternative available from companies that strive to reduce and/or eliminate toxic chemicals in their products. 

There are MANY suggestions that came from the Stink! film — click here — such as when buying skin care products (skin being our largest organ), try the Environmental Working Group’s useful Skin Guide or their household cleaning guide here.

Many products on the market use terms like “organic” or “non-toxic” or “eco-friendly” or “natural” to advertise their products. More often than not, these words are unsubstantiated claims. The only way to know is to check the validity of the claim through objective sources, i.e. certifications and lab testing proof.

Feel free to email us at info@SustainableWellesley.com with your thoughts on this topic and suggestions on reducing toxins in your home.


Kelly Caiazzo

Thank you to all who attended the Sustainable Wellesley and Wellesley Natural Resources Commission documentary screening of Stink!.

We packed the Wakelin Room with approximately 70 attendees in honor of Rachel Carson Day on May 27th. That’s a lot more people who are now aware of the fragrance loophole and lack of regulation of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals in our everyday products! 

Vote your values! As helpful as it is to know how to buy safer products personally, sweeping change happens when busy consumers don’t need to do their homework because of protective legislation. If the film resonated with you, consider making chemical regulations and transparency part of your voting agenda.


Below are some resources to help simplify the process of making safer consumer choices. Because kids should be worried about what’s on their pancakes, not what’s in their pajamas!


Apps for the phone: 

Silent Springs Institute App, Detox Me: https://silentspring.org/detoxme/

Environmental Working Group App, Healthy Living: https://www.ewg.org/apps/


  • Oeko-Tex certification: https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/consumer/consumers_home/consumers_home.xhtml

  • Avoid flame retardants, look for pajamas that say “wear snug fitting, doesn’t contain flame retardant”

  • Tip: Google “oeko-tex certified _____” to find products, you’ll often discover brands and companies that way for everything from sheets to shirts


Household cleaners: 

Someone asked specifically about dishwasher pacs – I use this powder in my dishwasher, but there are dishwasher pods & pouches listed in the EWG guide as well. 


  • Look for sunscreens labeled “reef safe” and avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate in particular

  • EWG Sunscreen Guide:  https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

Lawn Care:

Video about Healthy Yards in Wellesley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xztcmcjH_f0&feature=youtu.be

Organic Landscapers that Service Wellesley: http://www.sustainablewellesley.com/organic-landscapers-servicing-wellesley/

Letter from the Wellesley Board of Health and NRC about toxic lawn chemicals: https://wellesleyma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/14672/Joint-Letter-from-the-Board-of-Health-and-NRC-about-Pesticides-in-Wellesley-2019pdf

Reading Labels: 

EWG guide to label decoding: https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/decoding_labels

Stink! documentary resources page: https://stinkmovie.com/take-action/

Silent Spring Institutehttps://silentspring.org/

Sustainable Wellesley: www.sustainablewellesley.com

Wellesley Natural Resources Commission: https://wellesleyma.gov/418/Natural-Resources-Commission-NRC

Audience suggestions:

  • Consider googling soap nuts (soap berries) for laundry – some attendees have had great success, one person recommended ones originating from Nepal

  • When speaking to people to encourage environmental change, using language like “Would you consider…” is less likely to put them on the defensive. A great tip for initiating respectful conversations!

Additional questions: Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you’re having difficulty finding a product replacement or have questions. I’m not an expert, but I am an enthusiast who has found a lot of resources who are experts. I am happy to point you in the right direction or dive into the problem solving with you to find a solution that works. kelly.caiazzo@gmail.com

There’s also a local Facebook group where people swap resources and problem solve together to find more environmental solutions for living: Sustainable Living Wellesley Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/372633353537543/

Thank you so much to everyone who attended!

Jon Whelan, the film’s narrator and director, responded personally to our request for a non-profit screening license to show the film. I was able to send him the photo below from the event thanking him for the license and let him know how many attendees we had. Given how personal the film was for him after losing his wife to cancer, it was meaningful to me to share with him how many of you showed up to hear his message.

Thank you.


Special Thanks to Raina McManus of the NRC for presenting, Dr. Michael McManus (Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry) for fielding the Q&A, and Sustainable Wellesley volunteers Ellie Perkins and Janie Penn.



Preview YouTube video Healthy Yards in Wellesley

Phyllis Theermann

The air inside our homes is, on average, 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside, largely because of household cleaners and pesticides.

The Dirty Truth about Cleaning Products 
Tips on Keeping Your Kids and Family Safe

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 
from  7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Wakelin Room in The Wellesley Public Library

Come hear speaker, Joy Onasch, from the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMass Lowell give an overview of where toxic materials can be found in our homes and how to find safer alternatives for everyday household cleaning products.
Sponsored by The Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project (WCPP) a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that studies the relationship between cancer and the environment with the goal of reducing health risk factors for Wellesley residents and surrounding communities.